28 August 2008

Major weekend coming up!

The lovely lady who did the cover of my book, the talented Veganwitch, is hosting a kick-ass labour day party at her house in Jersey on Saturday. Steve and I will be making the journey tomorrow, to get there to be with other vegans. I can't wait! She always has a way of making everyone feel comfortable, and have fun.

I was thinking about making some kind of baked savoury pie for Steve, but the store across the street didn't have jack, and I didn't have time to get anything else, so I did a really quick cabbage thing. (Unslaw in the cookbook.) I made a couple of changes, based on what was around the house. For one thing, onions are getting stupid expensive, so I chucked that ingredient. Also, I used the last of the carrots earlier this week, so I just did cabbage and ginger (grated finely) instead. I could have bulked it up with some potato, but what are you going to do, right?

I did, however, use every single leaf and the stump part of the cabbage. I grated those pieces first, just to see what would happen. I was left with almost two or three cups of grated cabbage from stuff I'd normally throw out! If you think about it, that's what you'd lose in evaporation while you cook the cabbage. Never again will I throw away pieces of vegetables without seriously considering the costs. The other day, the same thing happened with some aubergine that I made in the microwave (nuke on high for 5 minutes at a time, until the thing collapses—depending on the size, you may need 3 or 4 tries; remove stem, remove skin, mash up with chopped garlic and a bit of sesame, and nuke 4 more minutes). I'd usually cut off the stem end, and then cook it. WRONG. This time, I threw the whole thing in a microwave safe dish, and nuked it. Then, when it all collapsed like I wanted it to, I just pulled off the stem. No wasted pieces.

I addressed the waste issue in the podcast, but it bears repeating: we throw away entirely too much from our produce, and it's important to take stock of it. Use every part, and you'll find that you'll be left with a fair bit more food.

22 August 2008

Sooji in the oven

If you've ever made the dish called Uppuma (it's in the book, before you ask), you'll know the pain of standing there and roasting the sooji on the stove. It's a pain to do, because it requires constant stirring for such a long time. I figured out how to cut out all that time wasted.

Do it in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350F, and pour your sooji into a baking sheet. Make sure that it's not too thick a layer of sooji, or all the grains won't get roasted evenly. When the oven gets to the right temperature, slide in the pans of sooji. Let it go for 7 - 9 minutes. Remove the pan, and stir everything around to rotate everything. Put it back in the oven for another 7 minutes. You're done.

There's no babysitting, or tiring out your arms with all that stirring. Isn't that wonderful!?

12 August 2008


A friend of mine emailed me to ask my opinion on a set of cookware. I figured that this would be the best place to address all my stuff about cookware.

Never, for any reason, purchase a piece that you haven't held in your hands. The reason being is that you can spot any number of usage issues right there when you lift the pot up. If it's a skillet, you will expect it to be good for pan frying, and flipping foods. You'll not only want the bottom AND SIDES to be heavy and fairly thick enough to hold the heat well, but you'll also want the thing to be light enough to pick up easily. You don't ever want a handle that you'll need to use a towel for, because it becomes a safety issue. This means that any pan with those thin metal handles? Don't get them. Also, avoid plastic ones. Go for one with a comfort grip, made of metal (so that it's dishwasher safe), but with enough heft in it to stay cool as you cook.

Also, make sure it's easy enough for you to handle with your strength. This doesn't apply to cast iron, of course.

The point is that when you go into a store, and ask questions of the staff, as well as handle the pans yourself, you'll not only know how they'll react to your hand, but also how they're put together. In other words? Don't buy them online. Also, don't ask me what I think of online cookware, as I can't give you an honest answer.

Bear in mind that you work from home. Avoid extremely expensive pots and pans, as the maintenance alone will kill you. Copper is out, as is any sort of pot or pan that you can't slam around in your dish washer. Copper must be regularly maintained, or else it starts to get hideous. Ever seen the statue of liberty? It's made of copper. If you don't want your pots lookin' like that some day, avoid it.

Go for a heavy bottom, but look for heavy sides too. The weight of the pan being even will ensure that the food gets heated evenly, and stays hot evenly. Those large, cheap stock pots that're thin like foil aren't worth the space they take up. Stick with the best you can find.

Avoid getting a set. They price a set based on "pieces," meaning that you're paying for stuff you don't actively need. Also, I have yet to find a single set whose stock pot, saucier, skillet, and fryer pan I trust equally. Some who make excellent skillets don't do such great stock pots. Look around, find individual pieces that you like, be they from a department store, cooking supply store, thrift store, garage sale, or tag sale. You'll be surprised at the different places that you'll find good quality cookware.

Hope this covers it, lisa!

05 August 2008

Cleaning >_<

Do you keep a tidy kitchen?

I find that some things, I can clean as I go along. If there's a large sink, it's easy to wash out a dish while you're cooking, so that it doesn't pile up too quickly. That being said, when I'm done cooking, I'm usually too tuckered out to do the cleaning. It's sad, because sometimes, the kitchen can start looking like a supply store exploded all over it. This is not so good.

Which is what happens when I get some spare time, and I have nothing scheduled. I'll go on a bit of a cleaning spree, and scrub everything down. Then for all of five days, the stoves will be gleaming white, the counters will be glowy and bright, and the fridge will be spotless. Until I cook my next major meal.

I'm starting to see why people are so enamoured of the oven. It makes a fraction of the mess, and you can get a whole helluva lot more done.

04 August 2008

Newly minted vegan?

My friend's brother was over for the past week. He recently went vegetarian, with the interest in going full on vegan. I had to show him some of the survival techniques. We went over food choices, keeping healthy, the whole nine.

First and foremost came the easy bean stuff. I set a pot of rice cooking first. Then, I started off on the beans.

You start off with some oil in a pot. While you get the oil hot, you very quickly rough chop an onion. When the oil is hot, you pitch in the holy trinity of spices: cumin, coriander, and sesame seeds. Once they finish popping, I slipped in the chopped onion. While the onion sautees, I chopped some tomatoes (about one medium, per tin of beans). Then, when the onions are soft, I add the tomatoes to the pot. This is still over very high heat, so that I can get dinner cranked out quickly.

Again, because this was meant to be a quick dinner, I continued to cook the tomatoes over very high heat, and stirred them around a lot, to allow them to break down quickly. Fortunately, this also meant that they got browned very quickly, and lots of little brown bits started sticking to the bottom of the pot. I splashed in a good slurp of vodka, and let it boil while I opened up two 16 oz tins of black beans. I drained out the liquid (as much as possible), and threw the beans into the pot. I washed out the tins with some water to get out the last bit of beans that were stuck to the bottom, and added that to the pot as well.

While the beans were boiling away for the last five minutes, I quickly washed and chopped some cilantro (parsley would work as well). I turned off the stove when my herbs were chopped, and slid them into the pot of beans. The whole process took about fifteen minutes, from start to finish (including clean up along the way).

About five minutes later, the rice was done cooking, and food was ready. Suffice it to say, he was surprised that it could be that easy, or that good! Y'know how it is when you show a someone a new game, and s/he realises that it's more fun than he expected? That's what happened here. He saw how easy it is to cook and eat vegan. Freaking score. This was, of course, above and beyond the masses of fresh fruit and vegetables I have lying around the house that was in easy reach at all times. Success is mine! (And his too of course!)